California requires children between the ages of six and 18 years to be in an educational program. For most children, compulsory education requires attending school in their school district. Truancy is defined as unexcused absences from school.

The California Education Code states that a truant is a student who does not have a valid excuse and:

  • Misses three full days in one school year; 
  • Is tardy or absent for more than 30 minutes during the school day on three occasions in one school year; or
  • Does any combination of these things.

A student is defined as being a chronic truant if they miss ten percent or more of the school days in a school year without a valid excuse.

If your child misses more than the allowed number of days from school without an excuse, you could face criminal charges and penalties for truancy under California law.

What Are the Acceptable Reasons for Missing School in California?

The California Education Code lists acceptable reasons for missing school to avoid truancy charges. Students are only truants if their absences from school are unexcused. 

The code includes the following reasons to excuse absences from school:

  • The student is sick
  • A city or county health officer issues a quarantine
  • The student has medical or health care appointments
  • The student is attending the funeral services of an immediate family member (one day for in-state funerals and three days for out-of-state funerals)
  • The student has jury duty
  • The illness or medical appointment of a child when the student is the custodial parent 
  • There is a justifiable personal reason approved by the school
  • The student is serving as a member of a precinct board for an election
  • The student is spending time with an immediate family member who is on active duty and has been called to duty or is on leave from or has immediate return from deployment 
  • Attending the student’s naturalization ceremony to become a United States citizen
  • The student is participating in a cultural event or ceremony

Additionally, the code provides that school administrators have the discretion to authorize an excused absence. Therefore, it is essential for parents and students to provide evidence that absences are excused to avoid the student being labeled as a truant. 

Talk to a School Official When in Doubt About an Absence Being Excused

Whenever there is doubt about whether an absence is excused, parents should try to discuss the matter with the school administrator before the absence. If time does not permit discussion before the absence, parents should discuss the matter with the school as soon as possible.

In addition to excused absences, students may avoid being a truant by proving that they are receiving education from an approved alternative to public school education. For example, the student may be attending a private school or receiving at-home education. Students may also receive private tutoring or advanced placement.

Students who work should apply for a part-time work permit if they will miss part of the school day to work. 

What Happens if My Child Misses Too Many Days of School in California?

Children and parents face truancy consequences. School Attendance Review Boards can take action against students for truancy. 

A Board may require a truant student to attend counseling. They can also penalize a truant student by taking away school privileges. The Board may also require the student to attend teacher conferences with their parents. 

If a student continues to miss school, the matter may be referred to Juvenile Court. The court acts based on the severity of the situation. 

For example, the court could require the student to make up the missed classes and/or suspend or delay the student’s driving privileges. In severe cases, the court could place a truant student on juvenile court probation and take other actions.

What Are the Consequences of Truancy for Parents? 

Parents can also face criminal charges for chronic truancy. The case could be referred to the district attorney’s office. A prosecutor could charge the parent with failing to supervise a child’s school attendance under California Penal Code §270.1a.

A conviction under this code section is a misdemeanor. The parent could be fined up to $2,000 and/or serve up to one year in county jail. 

The prosecutor could also charge a parent with contributing to the delinquency of a minor under California Penal Code §272. Violating this code section is also a misdemeanor. A conviction is punished by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to one year in county jail.

Contact a San Diego Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help with Truancy Charges 

Parents and students facing truancy charges should talk to a San Diego juvenile criminal defense lawyer about their legal rights. There could be one or more valid defenses to truancy charges. Understanding your legal rights is the best way to ensure that you and your child are treated fairly by the California school and criminal court systems. 

If you’re facing criminal charges, call Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers at (619) 357-4977 or contact us online today.